Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, has dealt with injuries for most of his professional basketball career.
Williamson has been sidelined since Jan. 2 with a strained hamstring. On Tuesday, the 22-year-old NBA star spoke to reporters as New Orleans continues preparations for Wednesday’s tournament game against Oklahoma City.
«I love this game… For those people who think I just want to sit on the sidelines just to sit there, I don’t know why people think that. No, it sucks. I just want to play basketball.» .»
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Williamson appeared in 29 games during the regular season. A win over the Thunder would allow the Pelicans to advance to face the loser of Tuesday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
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When asked how his body feels, Williamson replied: «Physically I’m fine, now it’s just a matter of when I feel like Zion. I know the atmosphere I’d be going into is based on playoff experience. So Now it’s just a matter of when I feel like Zion.»
Despite Williamson’s health declaration, there is not a high level of expectation that he will be on the floor with the Pelicans this postseason. He also recognized that he would have to overcome some mental hurdles before returning to action.
«It’s a bit of a mental battle, because you know when I got exasperated [the injury] in February, it was tough,» Williamson said. «So when I’m going to make certain moves, there’s question. Sometimes there isn’t and sometimes there is. And I understand the magnitude of these games coming up and I don’t want to be there second guessing or doing something that might affect my team in a bad way.»
Williamson’s healthiest season came in 2020-21, when he appeared in 61 games. He averaged 27 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He earned All-Star honors for his performance that season.
Williamson said it will be a «collective decision» between him and the team on when he can return to the field.
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Williamson noted that he does his best to ignore all talk about him.
«It’s hard. I can’t lie,» he said. «From my perspective, I just want to play basketball. I want to play hoops. I want to play the game that I love. But the reality is if I check my phone, if I’m just watching TV, no matter what.» it’s that I really can’t escape what the world thinks, what people’s opinions are. So it’s frustrating.»